Clunker of a Tax Package Races Through Georgia Legislature


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GA cap dome.gifA tax bill that flew through the Georgia House and sped through the Senate is now on its way to the Governor's desk for a signature. The package (which took hits from the left and right) is the equivalent of baby steps in terms of the real tax reform the state needs.  Georgia’s tax structure is regressive and outdated and this bill won’t do much to change that;it is a cobbled together set of proposals that includes industry specific tax exemptions, increased tax benefits for married couples and a restructuring of car taxes.

There are, however, two bright spots in the legislation: a tax on retirement income above $65,000 (instead of allowing all retirement income to be excluded from the tax base) and a so-called Amazon law which means that some internet sales transactions will be taxed. The Amazon tax would bring the state about $81 million in revenues over three years.  

Even though the Georgia rep for Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform called the Internet sales tax “stupid” and the larger package “disappointing,” it still passed the House by 155 to 9 votes, with Republicans boasting that on the whole, it’s a net tax cut.

This is the second year in the row that tax reform was on the table in Georgia. Last year the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians held extensive hearings and came up with recommendations that proved too far reaching and controversial to be adopted. This year, lawmakers aimed much lower and passed the narrower legislation, partly by rushing it through before anyone could slow it down.

Georgia Budget and Policy Institute published a brief (using ITEP figures) describing the nuances of the legislation and sum it up nicely when they say the work for policymakers on tax reform is anything but over. “To provide Georgians with a modern tax system capable of funding the state’s ever-growing needs, lawmakers must return to the well in coming years and address the issue once again. The work is not done and requires the political will to pass comprehensive reform.”

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